Tarpon Springs fishing guide Capt. Rich Knox—Absolute Florida Flats Fishing, a guide service on the West Central Florida Gulf Coast for over 23 years—reports very good fall fishing; Redfish, Snook, and now the larger Spotted Sea Trout are beginning to show up after the year’s first baby cool fronts lowered the water temperatures. Mix in the invasion of the spawned bait fish returning to the flats and the big out-of-slot Redfish move inshore to spawn along with the general population of slot fish and smaller residents already here. During this ritual they are feeding heavily on the returning pilchards from offshore; the bigger Spotted Sea Trout and Snook begin to move into the flats and feed heavily too. Overhanging mangrove tree branches along the pothole-laden shoreline on these flats is a great place for them to ambush a fresh-caught pilchard swimming aimlessly along.
Our tackle this time of year is light spinning 7'10" Loomis rod, with a 3500-4000 Diawa Lexa reel, spooled with 10-15 lb. test Spider Wire Ultracast braid, finished off with 20-30 lb. fluorocarbon leaders 4′ plus, tied line-to-line with a Gamagatsu live bait hook from a number 1 to a 3/0, depending on the size of bait fish you’re using. Try fishing all the mangroves, docks in our estuary systems, shell points, rock piles, and oyster bars on the inshore flats and, if you’re patient and take the time to cast net up 300-500 fresh baits, you can improve the action by live chumming a handful or two of these sought-after baits!
I had the pleasure of Tony Cintron and his 18-year-old son, Nick, for a 1/2-day of flats fishing; we had a little trouble with the bait run but managed to get plenty good pilchards and caught a bunch of nice Redfish!!! The Cintrons just moved here from Maryland, their very first time out on our flats!